Retailers should make the most of the media circus to raise their profiles, says Jacqueline Gold

What’s the difference between Michael Jackson and Andy Murray at Wimbledon? Don’t worry, I’m not about to make an inappropriate joke – although I’m sure there’s one in there somewhere.

They’re connected by the way they’ve dominated the news media and our personal conversations over the past couple of weeks.

However, the difference between them is that while Andy Murray’s Twitter followers have soared, it’s Michael Jackson’s record label that has been the one best placed to monetise the huge surge in public interest.

There are a number of things we can take from these stories. The first is the influence of online retailers. Part cause and part effect, but e-tailers such as iTunes and Amazon were the retailers most customers turned to for their immediate Jacko fix.

Customers know that they’re more likely to find what they want online than they are in-store. They also realise that it’ll probably be cheaper and arrive as quickly as they need it too.

The second thing to take away is the influence of online media, including Twitter, in the way customers “consumed” Jackson and Murray.

There have to be opportunities for businesses that combine the two and genuinely include high quality editorial with relevant products to buy. When it comes to Jackson, his record sales haven’t skyrocketed simply because he died – as if they were bought as a mark of respect. They did so because of saliency: the product (his music) is great and now all of a sudden it’s “front of mind” people are buying it again.

This has to be a welcome relief for marketing teams forever presenting new ways of getting “cut through”. If there’s a simple lesson here, it’s this: if you have a great product, advertise it. Good news for the more committed chief executives, who were thinking the only way to grow sales was to fall on their sword and then break the story.

Another lesson may be that these news peaks seem higher and more frequent – 24/7 access to global media has done that but how can we set ourselves up to benefit? If your brand has a comment on or relevancy to each news story, you will get closer to your customer. Given the London Olympics is going to dominate the news in 2012, I’m surprised to read that more retailers haven’t yet signed on the dotted line as sponsors.

So our businesses must be salient, relevant and available 24/7 and being “front of mind” or associated with a news story, however tenuous, can result in a sales spike.

Last week, Mollie Sugden, one of this country’s best-loved comic actresses, also died. The numerous mentions in the media of Mrs Slocombe’s pussy could be good for a few retailers and not just Pets at Home.

-       Jacqueline Gold is chief executive of Ann Summers